Becoming a certified HVAC technician can put you on a pathway towards a rewarding and well-paying career. Choosing the right HVAC training program to get your certification can make a huge difference in your ability to find the right kind of work afterwards. You may have difficulty even completing your program if it does not suit your personal needs and lifestyle.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the HVAC job outlook in our country is climbing at an astronomical rate, with a 15% increase in the number of available jobs by the year 2026. These careers tend to pay quite well, too. The national average annual salary of an HVAC mechanic is $47,610 a year or $22.89 an hour, with that number being much higher in certain states and areas.
In order to be able to work in this field, you must be certified. Otherwise, you will be unable to legally perform the level of technical work associated with being a genuine HVAC mechanic. Uncertified workers often get forced to work lower-paying jobs with a lower level of seniority and a higher risk of replacement.
To put your career on the right track and get the most out of your HVAC training program as possible, you can evaluate your options for HVAC schools using the 5 most important criteria below. These important factors can help you make the right choice for the best-fit HVAC school based on your own personal career goals.
1. Offers All Three of the Top National HVAC Certifications
There are three main certifications offered in the field of HVAC repair, installation, and servicing. They are:
- EPA 608 Certification
- NATE Certification (North American Technician Excellence)
- HVAC Excellence Certification
Of the three, EPA 608 certification is the one that is most necessary. It trains you on how to properly work with potentially toxic and environmentally harmful refrigerants used in the HVAC industry.
Operating without EPA 608 certification can put you in violation of possible state and federal regulations. You may also accidentally engage in unsafe practices that can result in hefty fines — sometimes even jail time!
There are three levels of EPA 608 certification, each concerning a different level of complexity for handling the associated refrigerants:
- Type I Certification: Small appliance installation and repair, such as window unit air conditioners, consumer refrigerators, and certain vending machines
- Type II Certification: High pressure refrigerant appliance repair, installation, and disposal, such as residential air conditioners, commercial refrigerator systems, and heat pumps
- Type III Certification: Low pressure refrigerant repair, installations, and disposal, often used in more complex industrial refrigeration systems
NATE Certification is not required by federal regulations, but it can help you prepare for your career and elevate you over other job candidates. Getting certification from the nationally respected organization helps you tackle more difficult or complex problems that can arise. It can also position you for better-paying careers and a better relationship with clients.
Professional Level HVAC Excellence certification is only available to those who can document two years of field experience as a technician and who can pass a comprehensive exam. A higher level of HVAC Excellence certification, the “Master Specialist Level,” is available to those who can prove they have a minimum of three years of field experience and who have achieved the Professional Level.
2. Is Accredited by National Organizations and State Boards
Your chosen school should have an HVAC training program accredited by one of the above certification entities or by your state’s Education Commission. Accredited programs are vetted for their legitimacy, the quality of their education, and their standing with your state’s commission.
Unaccredited schools may not provide the level of training needed to actually begin your career. Worse, your training may not be recognized by employers, equipment manufacturers, or potential clients, meaning that your program will offer a poor return on your investment.
3. Has a Reputation for Excellence Among Students and HVAC Employers
Just like any other business, you can rely on customer satisfaction scores to give you an idea of how much you will enjoy your HVAC training program and how much financial return you can expect to get out of it.
Testimonials provided by the school are a good start, but you should dig deeper on more neutral rating sites. If you can’t find information specific to their HVAC certification programs, then you can look to student ratings from other programs.
HVAC companies in your area may also have a number of schools they have encountered that have provided solid training to their employees, so it never hurts to ask potential employers which schools they see positive results from most often.
Finally, be on the lookout for red flags that your school could be more interested in loading you down with student loans than providing genuine training. Many for-profit trade schools are currently under investigation for deceptive practices, so do your research to avoid getting scammed.
4. Provides HVAC Training Programs That Meet Your Specific Goals and Needs
Firstly, you want to ensure that your program can prepare you for the actual career you want. If, for example, you’re more interested in servicing commercial HVAC systems than residential clients, then look for a program with a focus or specialization in that area.
Second, you should seek out a program that fits your personal needs so that you have a higher chance of completing it. Many vocational schools offer night classes, for instance, or online HVAC programs so that you can achieve your certification on a flexible schedule. If you’re forcing yourself to miss work or commute hours to make it to class on time, you could get burned out. Or, you could have difficulty making the grades and absorbing the lessons because you are so stressed.
5. Offers Career Placement and HVAC Internship or Apprenticeship Partnerships
Not every HVAC school can offer a way to get your foot in the door of your intended career, but those that do can make the transition to a professional life far easier. Helping former students find jobs in their field can also boost the reputation of a program tremendously, so schools have an incentive to help people find work.
Schools that help connect you with local paid internships and apprenticeships can also help you continue your education with on-the-job training. These programs have the advantage of helping you achieve higher-level certifications faster while also building your resume with hands-on experience.
Don’t Just Settle for Any HVAC Training School, Find the One That Helps You Achieve Your Dreams
None of the above five criteria are that much to ask in a legitimate HVAC certification school, so don’t feel as if you have to sell yourself short to find the skills and training you need to succeed in your future career.
If you aren’t sure how to find an HVAC training program that could be a good fit for you, then our academic advisors are ready to answer your most burning questions. Schedule a call with an advisor at the Center for Employment training now, and find out how easy it can be to advance your career and start working the job you know you deserve within the next six months to two years!